Why Are We in Ukraine? by Benjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne

Excellent and balanced analysis of the Russia-Ukraine war and its roots. From Banjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne at harpers.org:

On the dangers of American hubris

From Murmansk in the Arctic to Varna on the Black Sea, the armed camps of NATO and the Russian Federation menace each other across a new Iron Curtain. Unlike the long twilight struggle that characterized the Cold War, the current confrontation is running decidedly hot. As former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former secretary of defense Robert Gates acknowledge approvingly, the United States is fighting a proxy war with Russia. Thanks to Washington’s efforts to arm and train the Ukrainian military and to integrate it into NATO systems, we are now witnessing the most intense and sustained military entanglement in the near-eighty-year history of global competition between the United States and Russia. Washington’s rocket launchers, missile systems, and drones are destroying Russia’s forces in the field; indirectly and otherwise, Washington and NATO are probably responsible for the preponderance of Russian casualties in Ukraine. The United States has reportedly provided real-time battlefield intelligence to Kyiv, enabling Ukraine to sink a Russian cruiser, fire on soldiers in their barracks, and kill as many as a dozen of Moscow’s generals. The United States may have already committed covert acts of war against Russia, but even if the report that blames the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines on a U.S. naval operation authorized by the Biden Administration is mistaken, Washington is edging close to direct conflict with Moscow. Assuredly, the nuclear forces of the United States and Russia, ever at the ready, are at a heightened state of vigilance. Save for the Cuban Missile Crisis, the risks of a swift and catastrophic escalation in the nuclear face-off between these superpowers is greater than at any point in history.

To most American policymakers, politicians, and pundits—liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans—the reasons for this perilous situation are clear. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, an aging and bloodthirsty authoritarian, launched an unprovoked attack on a fragile democracy. To the extent that we can ascribe coherent motives for this action, they lie in Putin’s paranoid psychology, his misguided attempt to raise his domestic political standing, and his refusal to accept that Russia lost the Cold War. Putin is frequently described as mercurial, deluded, and irrational—someone who cannot be bargained with on the basis of national or political self-interest. Although the Russian leader speaks often of the security threat posed by potential NATO expansion, this is little more than a fig leaf for his naked and unaccountable will to power. To try to negotiate with Putin on Ukraine would therefore be an error on the order of attempts to “appease” Hitler at Munich, especially since, to quote President Biden, the invasion came after “every good-faith effort” by America and its allies to engage Putin in dialogue.

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